A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Sports? On TV?

In television on September 14, 2009 at 2:32 am

So, I’m totally not a sports fan. I appreciate athleticism and will sit down to watch a game – mostly I’ll choose football over any of the other sports on television – but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, or even really having an interest. Which, is odd considering what I’ve spent my last few days sitting through. (Other than the just started NFL season, which I’ve now watched one game of.)

This past, and current, season of TV had/s professional American sports stars stepping out of their comfort zone and attempting new things. One travels around the world, and the other is mostly just playing his equals – or betters – in other American sports. One sports star plays as a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals – Dhani Jones, and his Travel Channel show Dhani Tackles The Globe; and the other is the big man on the recently joined Cleveland Cavaliers – Shaquille O’Neal, in the ABC show Shaq VS. I have to admit to it being interesting that both players are on teams in Ohio (the state I was born), and are now on shows that allow them to get away from that state (understandably, I have to say).

Of the two, Dhani’s show is probably the better and more respectable, seeing as it takes this man and places him in foreign, and while not hostile, not necessarily completely welcoming environments. The other factor is that he plays sports that are outside of what his realm of activities would usually include; such as authentic Muay Thai fighting, Swiss lumberjack wrestling, and New Zealander sailing (which, winds up looking a lot harder than you’d think). Shaq, while also stepping out of his familiarity of basketball, is still only playing the mainstream American sports, and is honestly far less physically demanding than what Dhani is put through. (Shaq, usually asks for a handicap to the people he plays, while Dhani seems to get thrown into the deep end – although, probably not in as harsh an environment as someone who was in these situations without a camera crew.

Dhani’s show, which is actually available on Netflix Watch Instantly, also sticks to the Travel Channel setup, of having him imbibe in the culture of whatever area he’s in, and sometimes awkwardly trying to describe the tastes and smells like he’s Anthony Bourdain. There are also moments, where we get to see the juxtaposition of why a lot of nations call us “noisy Americans”, as there’s moments of talking back in games, calling out to random people on the street and whatnot. But, Dhani seems to be able to turn everyone to his side, or at least moments of confrontation are left on the cutting room floor. (There’s also moments of hesitation in a lot of episodes as he is confronted with indigenous foods, of questionable quality – such as fried spiders and insects in Cambodia and Thailand, home-brewed vodka in Russia, and the horrible smell of the Durian fruit in Singapore.) In all though, he – along with the audience – see athletes in different countries and of all different shapes, and along with Dhani, we leave with a respect for what athletes of all stripe go through.

Shaq Vs, on the other hand, is light entertainment, that is a master athlete just having a good time and showing that he’s got skills in more than denying his opponents points at the hoop. I believe the show is currently playing, so it’s still available to watch on TV – or past episodes are available on HULU.com. The reason I first watched the show was from looking through listings to just see what was on, and when I saw the description of the latest episode, I had to tune in. That episode, was Shaq challenging former boxing champion, Oscar de la Hoya. Naturally, it not being a fair match-up, but for whatever reason, I was interested in seeing Shaq get busted upside the head a couple times. That episode was pretty good, and while it seemed more of a lark, of just getting Shaq something to do in the off-season, he still put his all into the effort. So, I watched the three other episodes – him competing against PIttsburgh Steeler Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger; St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols in a home-run derby; and the Women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball Champions Misty May-Treanor and Katie Walsh, to game of doubles where he switched in a couple of partners.

Shaq is a natural showman. His affable personality and larger-than-life presence makes the show fun. He ribs his opponents, shows up and challenges the others on their own home turf (in Roethlisberger’s episode, he actually goes to Ben’s home). In a couple of the episodes there are even bets made and stakes placed for the winner – one has Shaq offering up a Championship ring to be worn by his competitor, and another has him having to walk a beach in a pink bikini with his name stitched on the back. There’s also some cool moments with Shaq and the other athletes working with kids and/or charity events, but the main setup of the show is the main event that occurs at the end of the episode, with the middle half showing the athletes preparing for their challenge. This usually entails, mostly showing Shaq working with all-star athletes to up his game – and us seeing that he truly is pretty good at all the sports he tries.

The funnest episodes are probably the de la Hoya fight, and the Pujols home-run derby. In the boxing episode, and the best moment, is when Shaq is sparring with current IBA heavyweight champion Oliver McCall, and McCall gets a good shot in Shaq’s face. Shaq’s little aside talkback is pretty funny. And of course the final fight, is pretty good, when both of these guys show that this isn’t just play time.

The home-run derby is fun, just for seeing Pujols seem intimidated by Shaq’s skills (granted he was only hitting for the fences, as measured by Little League standards – which I’m not making light of, just that well, it’s about half the distance), only to then come out and dominate, and spend the last five minutes of the episode hitting one after the other out of the park.

Both of these guys – and all the athletes that are presented on the show – are pretty amazing. And it garners respect to see what these people go through to do something they love, have grown-up doing, and seeing these two professional athletes attempt to step in and try their hand at it. Check ’em out.


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